Samara Tilkens Postuma is raising five kids from infant to teen in the St. Michael area with her husband, Jeff. When not found driving kids to and from activities, helping with homework or at the park or pool, you can find her sharing her life online where she does some freelance writing and social media work and also writes at her own blog, www.simplicityinthesuburbs.com.

Summer Safety with Children's: Bike Helmets

Posted by: Samara Postuma under Society, Education and literacy Updated: July 1, 2014 - 1:54 PM

It's not unusual to see neighborhoods full of little kids wearing helmets while they bike and scooter around these days but as those little kids get older, so do their opinions on whether they need to wear that bike helmet.

Can you ever be too old for a bike helmet?

Dr. David Hirschman, co-medical director of Children's Hospital Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center, says no. You're never too old or too secure of a bike rider for a bike helmet. And that includes adults.

"You can not predict when you might fall or get injured, which is why always having a helmet on your head is important," Dr. Hirshman said noting that none of the kids he's seen for bike related injuries were planning on falling.

Even in a minor fall, concussions, memory loss and nausea can occur and in some serious cases Dr. Hirschman said even significant behavior changes can take place.

"It can take a long time to fully recover from a fall on one's head," Dr. Hirshman said.

Dr. Hirschman said it's important that parents encourage helmets for their kids by modeling the behavior and also just talking about the risks. "The risk is too great, messed up hair is worth it," he said.

Helmets should be replaced anytime a fall occurs that results in impact because they are really designed for one fall. It's also important that a helmet fits correctly, the strap is snug under one's chin and the helmet is covering both the front and back of one's head.

Throughout each summer, various clinics and organizations do bike helmet giveaways and the Injury Prevention Team at Children's Hospital is always happy to provide helmets to those who need them.

In 2013, there were 410 bicycle related injuries to the Emergency Room at Children's Hospital in both Minneapolis and St. Paul. So far in 2014, there have been just 74 visits. Wearing a helmet won't prevent falls or accidents from happening but it will help prevent a life changing head injury.

Do you and your kids wear bike helmets? How do you encourage your children to wear helmets even if neighbors or friends aren't?

On Playtime.

Posted by: Samara Postuma under Education and literacy Updated: June 25, 2014 - 9:34 PM

The University of Colorado released a study earlier this summer on just how important playtime is for kids, and some might be surprised. 

According to the study published in Frontiers, executive functions in childhood predict important life outcomes. How does one develop executive function? By playing. Unstructured, unscheduled play time is one of the most valuable educational opportunities we give our children whether that is playing at the park or building with Legos or visiting the zoo.

In an article on The Atlantic, writer Jessica Lahey explains that "when we reduce the amount of free playtime in American preschools and kindergarten children stand to lose more than an opportunity to play house and cops and robbers."

Kindergarten teachers rank self-regulation as the most important competency for school readiness; at the same time, these teachers report that many of their students come to school with low levels of self regulation. There is evidence that early self regulation levels have a stronger association with school readiness than do IQ or entry level reading or math skills, and they are closely associated with later academic achievement. {Source.}

What does all that mean? The more opportunity your child has to play, the better they will do in school long term.

With play lacking and test taking rising in our schools, children are at greater risk for anxiety, depression and many students, especially boys, struggle with self regulation and executive function skills.

What do I think? I tend to agree. The lack of playtime in kindergarten was not only a source of frustration and heart ache when our now 8 year old was in kindergarten but also one of the reasons we've opted to send our five year old to Montessori school. I think that more playtime not only in kids' home lives is good but school as well can only lead to good things.

Your turn, what do you think? Do you believe the correlation between playtime, executive function and future achievement? 

Free Shoe Tying Class at Nordstrom

Posted by: Samara Postuma under Society, Education and literacy Updated: June 24, 2014 - 6:55 AM

My five year old starts kindergarten this fall and as has been tradition in our house, we work on shoe tying before we get to kindergarten. Because is there anything a kindergarten teacher despises more than tying shoes all day? I'm just guessing here but I have a feeling it's not their favorite part of the day.

A few years back I had heard rumblings of a shoe tying class at Nordstrom but never had the opportunity to attend so earlier this summer after a morning of my daughter WANTING to tie and my frustration growing with the idea that we needed to be out the door 10 minutes ago and can I please just tie your shoes? I thought now's the time for shoe-tying class.

On the third Saturday morning of each month, Nordstrom at the Mall of America holds a free shoe-tying class for kids. All ages of kids are welcome. The class is free and takes about 30 minutes and most kids leave knowing how to tie. {From my experience I noticed the employees encouraged lots and lots of practice. The more they practice the more you can ensure mastery!}

We went this past Saturday morning and it was really fun to watch the group of kids there go from just learning to really figuring it out. Several Nordstom employees were on hand to both instruct and help the kids.

An extra special touch is the certificate, balloon and goodie bag the kids get to take home afterwards.

The class takes place every third Saturday of the month from 9-9:30 a.m. and while the class is free, registration is required. You can register by calling Nordstrom(952) 883-2121 or by visiting the Children's Shoe department.

What age did your kids learn how to tie their shoes? 

Keeping Kids Learning over the Summer

Posted by: Samara Postuma under Society, Education and literacy Updated: June 18, 2014 - 2:47 PM

Research has shown that students lose one to three months of learning over the summer each year with the biggest loss being in math skills. Perhaps because there is such a plethora of reading programs available? Either way, kids lose important academic skills over the summer which makes September all that much harder on students, teachers and parents.

There are workbooks and tutors available but it's not always a priority for students to spend their days filling out worksheets and for some families, the cost and time commitment for a private tutor is out of the question. 

There are still ways to keep your kids learning over the summer though.

Thanks to Academic All Star Tutoring, which specializes in one to one tutoring and test prep services for the Northwest suburbs, here are some tips to keep kids learning while they are doing things they are already doing this summer.

1. Create a Bored Jar: Have your kids brainstorm ideas that they can do without parental help and place them in the jar for when you hear "I'm Bored!" In our house, the word bored is code for give me some chores.

2. Children's Book Club: Many libraries have book club packages for elementary and middle school students that include multiple copies of a book and a discussion guide available for check out. Put together a small group of friends that should be at or around the same reading level and have the kids meet to discuss the book once done reading. An adult will have to help facilitate discussion but this is something that could be done within one's neighborhood.

3. Geocaching: There are a lot of places in Minnesota to geocache but don't just take my word for it, the Minnesota DNR has lots to say about it. This activity will help your kids read maps, problem solve AND experience the great outdoors!

4. Lemonade Stand: If your kids are like mine, the idea of hosting a lemonade stand has been on their minds since the last day of school but with a little bit of pre-planning you can make this an educational activity. Here are a couple ways your kids can work on their math skills without even realizing it: 

-Measuring the lemonade and the water.

-Estimating ahead of time how many cups and how much lemonade will be needed.

-Determining how much money to start with to make change.

-How much money should each cup cost to cover the costs of the lemonade and cups and also make a profit?

-Giving back change.

-Finally, most important if working with others, splitting the profit fairly.

5. Gardening Contest: Our family planted our very first garden this year and it's been so fun to go and check on how things are coming in each day. You could have a contest with neighbors who also have a garden or even do some estimating on how big your zucchini might be or how much your pumpkin will weigh and how many tomatoes might you see.

6. Travel Agent, Jr.: Vacations take a lot of planning and usually a fair amount of money too. Let your child do some research and planning. If you are driving somewhere, have them figure out how many miles will be driven, how many gallons of gas will be needed and an estimated gas expense. If you're flying, have them look at the different costs of flying and how layover might affect ones trip.

First Time Camper

Posted by: Samara Postuma under Society Updated: June 12, 2014 - 11:53 AM

My 8 year old son heads off to overnight camp this weekend for the first time. Yay for Covenant Pines!

Friday morning we'll drop him off to board the bus with a couple buddies and he'll be off and running for what I'm sure will be a fantastic camp experience.

He's not my quiet or shy kid, he's excited about every new opportunity and was thrilled beyond belief when we signed up this past winter. Though it's hard to believe it was just a year ago he had his first away from home sleepover I think he's more than ready for camp!

We've printed the packing list and had the health form signed off on. All that's left is getting everything labeled and organized and packed and simply sending him out the door.

I grew up going to camp from the time I was about this age, some summers even going more than one time or more than one camp. I loved it. Loved the time with friends, the late nights, the group games, the canteen, I loved everything about it and I hope the same for him.

Of course I have a few little worries. He's got the fairest skin in our family so I worry that he'll forget to put on sunscreen and he wears glasses so of course I worry that he'll throw them aside and forget about them. While I'm certain camp counselors and life guards are likely on top of the sunscreen issue, I'm not quite sure how we'll handle the glasses issue yet. Send them? Don't send them? Just put them in his glasses case in his bag? {And no, he's not blind without them though I do think he sees better with them.}

I'm certain he'll lose a sock or two and might not bring home his towel despite all of my fierce labeling but I'm really ok with it. He'll do his best and because my goal for him is future independence I'd rather him figure these things out now then when he turns 18.

Do you send your kids to overnight camp? What are your tried and true tips? 

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